Sunday, 28 October 2012

Fungus Foray in the Quantocks

The quest for the elusive Amanita Muscaria continues. I know they are found on the Quantocks in Somerset so off to them we went.

Parking the car by the Blue Boar in Triscombe, we donned the wet weather gear and braved the rain to head up on to the hills. Despite  the rain it was a pleasant start to the walk. Not too cold and with no wind the rain was falling gently straight down for a change.

We had just turned off the lane on to the common land when we disturbed a few of the local  residents. They are very well camouflaged against the hill side - can you see the stag and his harem?

No fungi so far so we carried up the hillside to the old drovers track along the ridge. This is a very old track indeed - a 13th CE document calls it Alferode which conjures up visions of King Alfred riding along here ( before of after he famously burnt the cakes?).

The track meanders along the ridge with spectacular views  in all directions and at last I spotted a fungus...

and soon afterwards some more. These were fascinating, emerging from a rift in the trunk like a series of rungs on a ladder. Definitely one I will need to look up later.

Alferode was getting busier, we must be getting near the car park at the top. The track itself is now quite sunken and edged with a raised bank on which many old beeches were growing. The view down these reminiscent of the bones of a rib cage with the way the trunks split and curve inwards.

At last the Triscombe Stone  - quite small this one. Only some 2 ft or so high this is believed to date from the Bronze age and to be a marker stone on the old pathway.  Unfortunately a modern car park now adjoins it - I guess the modern version of a travellers' meeting place?

This was almost the final objective. All that remained was to climb to the highest point in the Quantocks and admire the view from Will's Neck. And a very nice view too if  rather impeded by the rain clouds. The coast was just about visible through the murk but even with binoculars the Severn Bridges were too shrouded to be seen. The back dots in the sky are ravens.

The route down was much quicker - straight down in fact. Very very steep in places and not helped in the woodland by a layer of slippery leaves on top of a layer of mud. Gave real meaning to the term "treehugger"! Still I only managed to sit down once.

As for finding Amanita? No luck at all. The search continues. 

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Hot water! - Roman Baths by night

Last night I was lucky enough to be invited to a function at   the Roman Baths and Temple of Sulis in Bath. To be able to visit the site without the usual press of tourists was a real treat.

 I've visited many times during the day but never before in the evening. The Baths really set the scene with flaming torches and a string quartet.

As the evening got cooler you could see the steam rising from the warm water.

The Sacred Spring

This is the overflow from the Sacred Spring. It is underground so being there in the evening made no difference to the light levels. However I couldn't resist a few shots with the new camera! Unfortunately the new "improved" layout means that you can't get as close to the water as previously.

Sulis  Minerva. Cast in bronze covered in layers of gold leaf, it was found in 1727 by chance in a sewer nearby.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Travelling Vicariously

If you like photography/travel blogs  then this one is definitely worth a visit!

Travelling Vicariously

Some amazing pictures here ( including one of mine -and I hope more in the future!)

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Autumn in Golden Valley

The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.

This particular Golden Valley is in Herefordshire, right on the Welsh borders.  The name comes from the river Dore ( from the Welsh dwr meaning water) but the Norman invaders interpreted it as d'or   and the name stuck. Personally I think the Welsh had it right. This was a very wet and muddy valley indeed.
The day started misty but with a promise of clear skies to follow so we parked the car at Peterchurch, popped into the local shops for emergency lunch supplies, ( it was further away than we'd anticipated) and headed off to see what we could find....

 The mist was slow to clear and at times we could see it rising from the fields. Suitably spooky and atmospheric for the time of year.

Although it has been a poor year for us for garden fruit the hedgerows in this part of England were loaded with berries

Wild Clematis winds its way through a hawthorn tree. A messy plant for most of the summer it is generous with its fruit in the autumn.

The dog roses of early summer have given way to the scarlet hips.

This of course is blackthorn with few sloes. They are much fewer this year and as we still have sloe gin from last year's bountiful crop we don't need to gather any this year.

Finally hawthorn. The trees are laden with berries this year. They make good jelly to eat with game I'm told. I have yet to try.

Being October and a wet one at that  I was hoping for a good display of fungi but I was to be disappointed. This was the only specimen I actually saw. Still hoping to find the classic red and white spotted toadstool (Amanita Muscaria)....

A secret here, I really hate spiders but seeing the webs speckled with water droplets almost ( note the "almost") reconciled me to their existence.

And finally a few shots of the church in Peterschurch. A lovely old Norman church with some of the original Saxon stone work visible, externally it has been defaced with a huge fibre glass spire.

The interior  has also been brutally modernised to allow it to be used as a general village hall, cafe and library as well as a church.

The fabulous original Saxon altar inscribed with 5 crude crosses sits incongruously amongst this modernity.

It has the Norman font to keep it company but otherwise the whole  impression is of a church hall with the blond wood storage cabinets, the stackable aluminium chairs and even a lift to the library in the bell tower.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Getting to know Maes Knoll

A break from Turkey this week and back to Somerset. Back in time also to the time of the Dobunni and the magnificent hill fort above Bristol.

This was a gentle walk with a group of friends so we weren't out to cover a long distance but as usual we seemed to come across the usual steep climb....

Parking the car in s suburban Bristol side street we were quickly out of the city and into the countryside and heading up Dundry Hill

The superb views of Bristol below were an excellent excuse to stop and draw breath. It looks a bit grey - it was a very grey day and we all kept an eye on the clouds building up.

Still if we let bad weather stop us we wouldn't get out very much in this part of the world.

The walk we had planned was overgrown in places and some of the stiles were very overgrown. This is a pretty one. Many of them were not and I for one had a close encounter with stinging nettles that left their mark for a day or two.

The hillfort is pretty hard to miss. A roughly triangular bump on the top of the hill and covers approximately 20 acres including the ditches and ramparts.

The position dominates. From the top you can see the stone circles at Stanton Drew, the city of Bath, the Cotswold Hills, the lake at Chew Valley and the Mendips. You can also see the rain storms passing.... Again we were lucky and they decided to miss us.

A view along the spine. The right hand side was out of the wind and provided us with an excellent picnic site.

Not much now remains of the ramparts and ditches other than this one.

We were now getting a bit worried that the rain was going to close in on us so it was time to retrace steps down the hill and back for a cup of some mint tea and pieces of pineapple with a friend before heading home again.

( There just might have been a stop at the pub for some emergency refreshment before the tea and pineapple but I couldn't possibly comment)

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Turkish Delight - Termessos

I'm going to spare you a few days now - you probably don't want to hear what Turkish ambulances and hospitals are like...

First day back on my feet and its one of the highlights so no way am I going to miss this. Even if I haven't eaten anything for 48 hours and its a steep hike up  to the city!

Termessos is something special. Alexander the Great tried and failed to cpature it in 333 BCE and you can see why. It is perched on top of a mountain at over 1000mt in altitude. Inaccessible doesn't come close to it.

I wasn't sure I was going to make it but many sips of water and stops to nibble on dry biscuits later we reached the lower city walls. I was spurred on by the remains of the temple of Artemis right by the car park which gave a tatalising hint of what was up there.

It was worth the agonisng climb. The site is pretty much unexcavated and everywhere there are boulders, many the beautifully carved remains of pillars and friezes.

The remains of the city are now protected in a national park and it is strictly forbidden to remove any plant specimens. Strangely though there was no explicit prohibition on removing rocks or stones from the site.  It just "isn't the done thing" so we looked. took photographs and left the stones where they lay.

Everywhere you looked there were the remains of more collapsed buildings. It must have been quite a sizeable city. It was abandoned very quickly when an earthquake destroyed the aquaduct that brought water to the city which is probably why it is still so complete. That and its overall inaccessibility which would have made it an unattractive place to harvest stones for later reuse which is what commonly happens.

The highlight of the city is undoubtedly the ampithetare. It has a setting that quite simply could not be bettered.  How the audience could watch the show with that stunning view beats me.

I was feeling pretty done in by now so contented myself with perching at the top rather than descending down into the amphitheatre itself. I do regret that now but at the time I still wasn't feeling that good.

It was a fairly taxing morning so I was quite glad to get back to the car park. It is somewhere I'd like to return to for a more detailed exploration of the ruins but it wasn't to be this time around.

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